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A tourist-less Ohrid during Easter, celebrated by Orthodox believers at home

For the first time in recent history, Ohrid, the Balkans center of Orthodox Christianity, there will be no believers in the religious temples of Ohrid.

Ohrid, 19 April 2020 (MIA) – For the first time in recent history, Ohrid, the Balkans center of Orthodox Christianity, there will be no believers in the religious temples of Ohrid. The extended curfew introduced as a measure to manage the coronavirus epidemic means that there will be no religious gatherings in the churches and the believers will have to spend the holidays at home, highly unusual when it comes to Orthodoxy’s biggest holiday.

Easter holidays usually meant a city chock-full of tourists, both local and foreign. Believers would mass-visit temples, the people of Ohrid would traditionally go to church from Maundy Thursday all the way up to Easter Sunday, even the Monday after Easter in order to light candles for their loved ones’ graves.

Holidays look a lot different this year. The Debar-Kichevo eparchy, as well as the Macedonian Orthodox Church announced they would follow healthcare authorities’ recommendations to prevent the spread of the illness, so the church services will be done without the presence of believers.

In order for the holiday spirit to reach every Orthodox home, the Lions-club Lichnidos, through the Ohrid News and Mega Production portals initiative, blessed by the Debar-Kichevo eparchy and supported by the City of Ohrid, on April 18 there was a YouTube stream of the Easter service at Plaoshnik, beginning at 11:30 pm, officiated by Orthodox Bishop Timotej and a couple of priests.

As far as the situation in the city goes in terms of the coronavirus, it has been deemed as stable and controlled until now, as the result of the high level of responsibility by the citizens. When it comes to following the measures and healthcare recommendations, they’ve been highly conscientious and disciplined.

In order to prevent the virus’s spread, the Crisis HQ decided to place people to monitor the entrances of supermarkets where there are bigger crowds. Their job is to maintain social distancing among shoppers. There will be a curfew in place during the holidays, but Orthodox temples in the city have been disinfected.

There have been lots of debates on social media concerning the municipal Crisis HQ’s demand to limit movement to and from Ohrid, and to prevent people from other cities who have weekend houses in the city from coming in. The authorities believe that Ohrid’s hospitality is put in a negative spotlight with such an initiative, because tourism is an economic staple of the city, but they were intent to maintain a relatively favorable condition.

The more disciplined people are in these complex times, the quicker the crisis will be dealt with and things will return to normal, so that Ohrid can be open to guests and tourists in the upcoming summer tourist season.

Reality will be a bit different. Ohrid’s Crisis HQ demand was not accepted, and there were over 300 vehicles from other cities registered in Ohrid a couple of days ago, without taking into account neighboring settlements. Disregarding the curfew lasting from Friday to Tuesday, there will be no tourists in Ohrid, but there will be guests from other cities going to their apartments or weekend houses.

Aleksandar Bačić

Translator: Dragana Knežević

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